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A letter from the CEO to the Reach for Change community:

Over the past months, we have all been coming to terms with a new reality. We have been learning how to interact differently: distancing ourselves physically while trying to maintain a sense of closeness in other ways. Our economies have been damaged. Badly. Most devastating of all, almost half a million lives have been lost.

Although COVID-19 is an indiscriminate disease, it has exacerbated the deep inequalities that already existed in our societies and around the world.

At Reach for Change, we have been asking ourselves: How will this crisis impact the futures of our children and youth? What does this mean for the progress the world has made in tackling global issues like poverty, hunger and inequality? What does it mean for the social entrepreneurs we support and their beneficiaries who are counting on them? And most importantly, what kind of world do we want to see emerge from this pandemic, and what role can we play as an organization in creating that world?

 

What does this mean for our social entrepreneurs?

Social entrepreneurship is a powerful tool for social change. The grassroots social entrepreneurs that Reach for Change supports live close to the social problem they are trying to fix, and therefore have unique solutions to these problems. They design their solutions based on inclusive approaches - where the beneficiaries are part of developing the solution. Unencumbered by large organisations and processes, they tend to act quickly, to respond to social injustices and market imperfections quickly with agile approaches. They are able to identify new value chains, and services and products that can solve the social problems we are facing. In the face of a pandemic, they can quickly pivot and respond to social needs. The potential is great. However, they need support and increased capacity to scale and maximise their impact.

Early on, Reach for Change consulted with the social entrepreneurs we support to better understand the challenges they are up against as they grapple with the effects of the pandemic. Our survey of our entrepreneurs across Africa and Europe delivered some alarming findings.

  • 58.8% of our enterprises reported that their ability to deliver impact has either partially or completely stopped due to COVID-19. 31.4% have been able to adapt their activities to continue to safely deliver impact.

  • But the same time, 62.7% of our social enterprises reported that their beneficiaries’ needs have increased due to the coronavirus.

  • 88.3% of our social enterprises report that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their organizations’ finances and 66.7% expect to be insolvent in the next six months if the situation remains the same. Nearly 30% have had to lay off employees or reduce their salaries just to stay afloat.

Based on these results, we see social enterprises struggling to maintain their operations and finances, while at the same time the demand for their services has increased as the children and youth that they support find themselves in greater need. In 2019, our entrepreneurs impacted nearly 500,000 children and youth worldwide. These children still need support, and more of it.

The strain on social entrepreneurs is immense,but they do have one advantage: because social enterprise is based on innovation and is grassroots in nature, their ability to refine innovation and adapt quickly to change is an asset that can be leveraged. Reach for Change is committed, more than ever, to supporting these entrepreneurs so they can maximise their reach.

 

What does this mean to our communities?

Reach for Change is committed to change through partnership. Our social entrepreneurs work closely with the children and the young people they support, but we also need to connect them with networks, skill sets, markets and investors so they can maximise their impact. This is why we create alliances with diverse sectors such as the private sector, the public sector, impact investors and academia.

In this time of crisis, this approach is essential. During the past months, Reach for Change has joined a number of coalitions and alliances, to think creatively on how we can best support those who need it the most during this critical time.

We have been in close dialogue with a number of our partners about providing immediate support to our community of social entrepreneurs. In tune with one of our core beliefs at Reach for Change - that the best solutions come when we bring diverse players to the table - we also partnered with Bain & Company, a world class management consulting firm, to develop a toolkit to help social entrepreneurs through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Drawing from the expertise at Bain & Company, the toolkit was designed to help our social entrepreneurs navigate the crisis by effectively balancing short-term action with long-term planning. The toolkit will enable them to protect their organizations, ensure continuity to minimize the immediate impact of COVID-19 on their organization, while also helping them develop plans to recover from the crisis and strategize for the future. In doing so, we have ensured that they are in the best possible position to respond to the pandemic and ensure that they can continue to carry out their critical work for children and youth.

 

What does this mean for the future?

The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time. And its effects will last even longer. We expect to see new challenges emerge, age-old inequalities beginning to widen again, and the critical issue of climate change continuing to require serious action. These issues will require innovative solutions led by those who are close to the problems at hand.

At Reach for Change, we have an ambitious goal to increase our social impact by 10 times by the year 2030. We believe in catalysing the strength of grassroots social entrepreneurs, and scaling their solutions exponentially. We believe that in pooling our resources, and developing unique partnerships, we will be able to contribute to the global movement of social entrepreneurs. This movement will contribute to solving many of the most pressing challenges we have today. In the face of this pandemic, we are more committed than ever to our long term vision.

 

Sofia Breitholtz
CEO, Reach for Change

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